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Djokovic warms up for Roland Garros with Belgrade title

BELGRADE: Novak Djokovic completed a succesful warm-up for the French Open when he beat Slovakian Alex Molcan 6-4, 6-3, on Saturday in the final of the ATP clay tournament in Belgrade.

This was the second event in the city in just over a month but where the Serbia Open in April was played in an empty stadium, fans were allowed for this tournament.

“It’s been a while since I last played here in front of a crowd,” said Djokovic, a Belgrade native who lost in the semi-final in the Serbia Open, a tournament he last won in 2011.

“To hold a trophy here after 10 years is really special and it couldn’t be better ahead of Roland Garros,” he said. “I am playing well, feeling good and I have spent quality time with my family.”

Molcan, ranked 255th in the world, broke Djokovic’s serve three times from three break points in the first set, but struggled to hold his own.

Djokovic struggled with his first serve in the opening set, only managing to get 44 per cent in and winning just six points from them. He still took the set with his fourth break in the 10th game. The Serbian was steadier in the second set, landing 66 per cent of first serves. He broke in the sixth game. Molcan at once broke back. Djokovic immediately regained the initiative by winning the next game when Molcan hit a backhand volley wide.

Djokovic then comfortably served out the match in 1hr 28 mins. It was the second title this season for the 34-year-old world number one, the winner of the Australian Open in February, and the 83rd of his career.

The 23-year-old Molcan was trying to become the fifth first-time ATP tournament winner this season. Before Belgrade he had not won a match on the ATP tour this year.

“I didn’t play badly, but I was playing against Djokovic,” he said.

“I’m feeling good and tired,” he said. “I made my first ATP Tour final from qualification. I played good tennis here and I was fighting. Today, I tried as well, but it wasn’t enough.”

Roland Garros starts on Sunday with Djokovic drawn in the same half of the draw as his old rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Djokovic is two behind Nadal and Federer’s joint men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

Djokovic has a first round date with American Tennys Sandgren in the first round in Paris on Monday.

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